Thursday, June 21, 2007

Finding a Place to Stay in Florence

Map of the neighborhoods of Florence, Italy. We first thought we were going to stay in Bologna so we spent 20+ plus hours reviewing the layout of the city, figuring out the best neighborhoods, getting familiar with the rental sites. We used satellite imagery (Google, Bing)to look at buildings from different angles to figure out where apartments were located in various building. We probably spent too much time. Then something happened. We were talking one weekend and it became clear that neither of us felt "great" about Bologna - though we'd never been there. (Okay, some Italian friends did pooh-pooh it which made us starting wondering). Anyway, we decided to scrap Bologna and head to Florence. We'd been to Florence twice before and were familiar with the city and it felt like the right choice for us.

The process started all over again: scouring rental sites (housing, apartments), emailing contacts, checking bird's eye views, etc. This time we got a little more aggressive and emailed a lot more trying to turn up leads. There were a few sites we kept going back to:
In the end, an ad on Craigslist caught our eye (one that we had ignored before) and we followed up on that and secured an apartment. All in all we spent probably another 20+ hours between us. I wish were were more satifisers instead of optimizers (?). However, the work I hope is justified because I think we saved money and have something decent. No pictures or location information will be revealed until we get there. (We already had one deal fall through. It was a cool apartment in the Santa Spirito neighborhood that we had all lined up and substantial deposit emailed...only to be rejected. We are still a little sore about that one.)

Attached is a neighborhood map we made and printed out so we could keep it handy when looking for housing.

Update March 2014

It’s seven years later since we wrote this, and a lot has changed. You should also take a look at:
In looking back at our experience in Florence and the multiple trips we’ve taken to Italy since them, we advise:
  • The pictures most often are better than the actual thing. Not that this is bad, just be prepared.
  • Think about where the apartments are located. Use mapping tools to get a sense of “place”. Street views can be useful to get a sense of life on the street. But don’t read too much into it. Case in point, on a recent trip to Villanova Mondovì, we found that the town was much more charming than the impression we got from just looking at aerial shots or street views.
  • Think about walkability. Do you like walking to the store to get groceries? Do you like popping out for the passeggiata?
  • Noise bother you?  Maybe, as charming as it might seem, don’t go for the apartment on the main piazza.  You can always walk to the piazza and enjoy it that way.
  • Use the reviews and read between the lines. Think about who is giving the review.

Update July 2016

We repeated the "fun" of finding a place to live in Bergamo, Italy. Our experience is detailed in the post: Perché Bergamo (Why Bergamo)?  There are several tips in that post, the most relevant being if you are on-the-ground in the place where you are looking for an apartment, build relationships and tell people what you are looking for. Word of mouth is a pretty good way of finding a place.